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Floodplain management showcased at Basin Salinity Forum

Progress in salinity management, understanding floodplain salinity dynamics and minimising water quality risks were presented at the third Basin Salinity Forum, held on 30 November 2021.
Published: 02 December 2021
Salt interception scheme in action at Lake Hawthorn near Mildura, Victoria
Salt interception scheme near Mildura, Victoria

The forum, held every 2 years, provided the opportunity for salinity managers, river operators and environmental water managers to come together to share knowledge, latest research, and risks and insights across the Basin.

There was a diverse program of presentations with highlights including Jane Coram from the CSIRO providing the keynote address on Basin trends, Basin states presenting on best practices in salinity management and scientists presenting on new research and knowledge.

Collective efforts by all Basin governments ensure that salinity is well managed and doesn’t return to historic levels that harmed the natural environment, crops, livestock and people.

This is the 12th consecutive year where the Basin salinity target has been met.

In the past year, more than 452,000 tonnes of salt were diverted away from the river and adjacent landscapes with the use of 14 salt interception schemes. That’s almost half a million tonnes of salt prevented from affecting the quality of our water supply. 

The salinity level is measured by recording the electrical conductivity (EC) of the water. As salts increase the ability of water to conduct an electrical current also increases, so a high EC value indicates a high salinity level.

Salinity levels (electrical conductivity or EC) measured at Morgan, South Australia in 2020–21 have been the lowest since joint salinity management started. With daily averages of electrical conductivity or EC of 227 EC and a peak of 328 EC in 2020–21. All well below the levels that impact people, farms and the environment.

Why salinity in the Basin needs to be managed

High salinity or high concentration of salt in water systems can harm the natural environment, crops, livestock and can be unfit for human consumption, which is why governments closely monitor and carefully manage salinity levels in the Basin’s waterways.

Salinities less than 800 EC are considered suitable for drinking, livestock, and irrigation. High salinity became a major issue from the 1960s to 1980s where increased salinity affected Basin farmers, drinking water for communities, wildlife and the environment.

The Australian Government and Basin governments work together to manage salinity in the Basin through the Basin Salinity Management 2030 strategy and the Basin Plan Water Quality and Salinity Management Plan. Governments work with communities to prevent salinity from entering waterways by improving farming and irrigation practices to prevent extra salt from seeping or washing into the rivers, and operating salt interception schemes. Fourteen salt interception schemes pump groundwater away from rivers and nearby landscapes into evaporating basins that hold and contain the salt. 

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